PEARSON HUDSON SIMPSON & HIS FOREFATHERS

CEDAR CUTTING

PEARSON HUDSON SIMPSON AND HIS FOREFATHERS

REMINISCENCES: PIONEERS OF THE RICHMOND RIVER

Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 - 1954), Thursday 29 August 1929, page 8

Pearson Simpson [Snr], grandfather of the late Pearson Hudson Simpson, of Uralba came out from Manchester, England, with his wife and family in the schooner "Argylshire"in the year 1826. On arriving in Sydney he commenced business as a general storekeeper, in what is now known as Pitt Street. This is the site where Hordern Bros'. Store stands. He was very unfortunate however, by taking in a school-mate as a partner. It was unknown to him at this time that this gentleman was heavily indebted in England. To make matters worse the schooner "Arab," containing the second shipload of merchandise for Mr.

Simpson [Snr], was wrecked at the Cape of Good Hope in February, 1827. His partner's creditors, on hearing the news, came and seized everything the firm possessed, so Mr. Simpson's uncle bought 40 acres of land on the Lane Cove Road, (5 miles out from Sydney) and gave it to him. Here he made an orchard and resided for the remainder of his life. His eldest son, Pearson [Jnr], was educated in Sydney under the Rev. Fulton who was fired at by bushrangers while he and another gentleman were on their way from the Nepean to Sydney. The bullet passed through the minister's hat without injuring him. He stood up and whipped his horses, crying out at the same time ''Fire again, you scoundrels, fire again." The bushrangers were so amused at the old gentleman's bravery that they let him go without firing another shot.

DISCOVERY OF THE RICHMOND

From the time of the discovery of the Richmond River by Captain Rous, (in the Rainbow, in 1828), young Pearson [Jnr] had a desire to visit the newly discovered river. He was in Sydney when. the- first steamships, the "Surprise" and the "Sophia Jane" came to Australia in 1831. It was in the year 1842.that Pearson Simpson [Jnr] first visited the Richmond River, there being only four other white men on the lower river at that time. He used to camp at night under the spurs of a big yellow wood tree (which had been uprooted by a gale), until he could get. a little bark hut made for himself. It was during this year that the "Sally", the first schooner to cross the Richmond bar, brought the first settlers to the lower river. Settlers had arrived. on the Upper Richmond about two year earlier.

 

Mr. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] at once commenced cutting cedar and in company with Mr. Service, cut and squared the first shipment of cedar to cross the Richmond bar. Some of these logs contained as much as 12,000ft. Later on, he went up to Duck Creek to cut cedar. This creek was so named on account of there being such a lot of wild ducks along its banks at that time. The blacks' name for the place was Uralba, a name which was afterwards designated to the district by the whites. Here Mr. Simpson [Jnr] worked for some time, and put up a little slab hut for himself. .Then he returned to Sydney and married Elizabeth Hudson, daughter of Charles Hudson, and a descendant of Henry Hudson, the great American explorer. The young couple were married in St. James's Church of England and then resided in Sydney for some time. Later on, they returned to Duck Creek, and made their home near where the church now stands at the present time. It was here that Pearson Hudson Simpson was born in the year 1854, he being the fourth child of the Simpson family, and one of the first white born children on the lower river, Mr. L. Snow, senior, being one of his mates. Mr. Simpson [Jnr] continued cedar getting, and he and his mates would roll the big logs to the creek by means of levers. Sometimes it took as long as a fortnight to get them to the bank. They were then chained together and floated down the creeks and out over the bar for the schooners to tow to Sydney. As soon as the Simpson boys were big enough, they also helped their father. Later on, Mr. Simpson [Jnr] bought some bullocks from' Mr. Yabsley and used these for the purpose of hauling the logs to the. river banks. He used to have bells on his bullocks so as to know where to locate them, and long before sunrise he and his sons would have the team ready to commence work. The reeds on the lower land at this time were over their heads and frequently they would be up to their waists in mud and water while after their bullocks. On more than- one occasion great floods came and washed all their logs away to sea just as they had them ready to send to Sydney.

 

TROUBLESOME BLACKS

They had many hardships to contend with besides. At this time the blacks were very troublesome, and Pearson Hudson Simpson had many narrow escapes of being killed by them. He has seen Duck Creek red with blood (where the bridge now stands) when various savage tribes used to meet and fight. It was, a great meeting place of theirs ; it was near where the bridge now stands that they used to hold their corroborees. These were very interesting to watch, but one had to keep concealed. The natives would smear their bodies with different coloured pipe, clay which they got from the banks of the various creeks, and their heads would be decorated with brightly coloured feathers, red seeds from the reeds, and shells. Their tabby tabbies were made out of kurrajong bark, reeds and palm leaves. Some of the men had. spears, nulla nullas and other weapons; others had drums made from the skins of wild animals, while others beat time with their boomerangs, and they would all dance round and sing. Even in their wild state, the natives were a very neat race of people. It was wonderful to see how well they could make their dilly bags and fishing nets. For the latter they would strip' the bark off the kurrajong trees, then chew and beat it into fine shreds, arid rub it between the palms of their hands. After this process they would let it soak in the creek for a couple of weeks, then chew and roll it again. It was now ready to be made into nets. These nets were weighted with shells. Once when Pearson Hudson Simpson was a little boy he was chased right into the house and under the bed by one of the savages, who was carrying a stone tomahawk. His parents were away that day, but his brother Sydney happened to be near and. he called out "Come quick, father." The native, on hearing this, rushed out of the house and away into the scrub; thus Sydney saved his brother's life. On another occasion when Pearson Hudson Simpson's parents went down to their little hut at Pimlico for the day, a savage black from the Tweed chased him and his mate, Christy Marriot (with a stone tomahawk), right to their hut. The two boys rushed inside and bolted the door, but did not have time to close the shutter. The black tried to enter the hut through the. shutter, but the boys pelted him for some time with potatoes and kept him out. Luckily for them, a friend arrived at that moment and the black disappeared.

It may be mentioned here, that the Simpson family were the first people to. have potatoes growing on the Richmond. A captain off one of the schooners gave Mrs. Sarah Marriott a; sweet potato, which she cut in halves. She gave Mrs Pearson one half, while she kept the other and cooked it. Mrs. Simpson planted her half, and soon stocked the district with potatoes.

During the early days (at what is now known as Dungarubba) five families had camped close together for company. The men used to go away cedar cutting during the week, and would return each weekend to see their wives and families; also to get a fresh supply of provisions, which consisted mainly of corn meat and damper. This meat used to be sent out from England in casks. One weekend as the men returned to their camps they discovered that the blacks had been there and murdered their wives and families. One poor man, on approaching his camp, noticed his big Newfoundland dog coming from out of the bush, and returning to the same place a few minutes later. When he found that his family were dead, he decided to go over and see where the dog was. To his surprise he discovered it lying in a heap of stinging nettles with the little baby huddled between his legs. The baby had been there all night, and no doubt would have perished only for the warmth of the dog. It was afterwards learnt from the friendly blacks that the savages had their stone tomahawk up, just going to kill the baby, when it looked at them and smiled; so instead of killing it they took it out of its cradle and threw it into the heap of nettles. This little child was brought to Duck Creek, where it was cared for by some of the white women. The poor husbands then mustered together and asked the captain from one of the schooners to bring them all the arms and ammunition he could procure. On obtaining these they attacked the camp of the savages and killed everyone they came across.

It is quite true , about the blackfellow who was born without a head, referred to by Mr. John Cusack during the Lismore Jubilee celebrations. Mr. Simpson [Jnr] has often seen him, for he used to frequently visit the Duck Creek camp. His eyes, nose and mouth were on his chest, and he had hair on his shoulders. The other natives tried to burn a neck on him. After his death, Mr. Frank Morrish, of Alstonville, wanted to get his remains to send to the museum, but the other blacks would never tell where he was buried.

Soon the natives of Uralba became very friendly with the Simpson family, for Mr. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] used to give them food, tobacco, clothes and. anything else he had to spare. They also began to learn the English language. This was done by pointing to certain things and repeating the names after the whites said them.

 

RELIGIOUS SERVICES

The first minister to visit the Richmond was the Rev. John McConnell, who came in the year 1844, but the first minister to hold a service at Duck Greek was the Rev. Arthur E. Selwyn. This service was held under the banana trees on the farm of Pearson Simpson [Jnr] , and just across the creek from where the present church stands. The land is now owned by his grandson, Joseph John Simpson. It may also be mentioned that the -Simpson family gave the land on which the church stands at the present day, Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson being its founder and first church warden. During the first church service many natives gathered round and listened attentively. When the service was over they came to Mr. Pearson Simpson and said, "Budgree that feller, gib 'em plenty daily bread," but when the minister left without giving them any bread: they said, "What for that feller yabba gib 'em daily bread and baal gib em.'' They were quite disappointed, so Mr. Simpson had to explain to them that the white people were saying their prayers and asking God (the Great Man above) for help. The natives soon grew quite interested, and for long afterwards they attended the services which were held at Mr. Simpson's. Other early ministers on the river were the Rev. Coles Child, the Rev. Dove, and the Rev. Thom.

When Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson's eldest sister, Elizabeth, died at the old Duck Creek camp, the blacks showed much sympathy, and even mourned for her, as though she was one :of' their own tribe. She was taken away by the boat to the old cemetery at East Ballina, and many blacks followed in their canoes. It may be mentioned that Bullenah was the aboriginal name for Ballina.

Charles Hudson, father of the late Mrs. Pearson Simpson [Jnr], was the first blacksmith to ever set foot on the Richmond River. He lived at Duck Creek for some time, where he erected a small shop, but not- being able to find sufficient suitable work, he returned to Sydney. During the early days there were- many great floods and shipwrecks along the North Coast of N.S.W. On one of these occasions Mr. and Mrs. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] had to leave their home on account of the waters rising so rapidly. They made for the hill, and had to cross a low place on a big log. Mr. Simpson [Jnr] went first and carried two of the children. Mrs. Simpson [Jnr] followed, and would have been washed away had it not been for Paddy Magee, who accompanied them, and caught her just in time. They had to find shelter against some of the big trees on the hillside until the waters receded. It was during these hard times that they had to grind the maize into meal and make a kind of bread of it, for flour could not be bought at any price on account of the schooners not being able to cross the bar. Some of the grain they would roast and grind with two smooth stones. From this they made a kind of drink which was something like coffee. Tea and sugar were not to be had, even for cash. During one of the later floods Mr. Simpson had many pumpkins growing, and these could be seen in all directions, floating away and out to sea. Fowls were perched on the drifting logs, and at times snakes were to be seen coiled on the logs beside them. The first Crown surveyor who travelled the country between Port Macquarie and Moreton Bay was Mr. Clement Hodgkinson. This was during the years 1842 and 1844. He mapped the land out into counties as he went, and has the honour of bestowing the classic cognomen of Rous upon that immense area of fertile land in the county comprising the Richmond River. No other surveyor came for years afterwards.

 

LAND ACT

Then in the year 1860 a notable Land Act was proposed which later became known as the John Robertson Land Act. It was passed in the year 1861, and by it the land could be selected before survey. Mr. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] and several others were now summoned for living on Government land, and accompanied by a black tracker, they had to walk to Grafton, as this was the nearest place a court was held. On being questioned, Mr. Simpson said, "What am I to do? A man can't live on the water.” Up to this time no land had been thrown open for purchase. "What Mr. Simpson says is quite right," said the police magistrate. They were each fined 1s [shilling]. Mr. Simpson [Jnr] then walked back to his home at Duck Creek. Surveyor Peppercorn was now sent to the old camp to survey the land, and Mr. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] became the first owner of freehold land on the lower river. The surveyor next went to Blackwall, a place named by some of the old English settlers after their home in England. At this place lived a class of very rough and quarrelsome foreigners, who thought nothing of putting a man aside for his money. The captains of the schooners always liked to get past Blackwall before nightfall, as a boat could not stay there for the night without being robbed. It was on account of these quarrelsome people that Surveyor Peppercorn changed the name of Blackwall to Wardell. Pimlico was also named after a place in England. It was on Pimlico Island that poor Thomas Bleagh was murdered for his money, and Dick Henry was put aside at a place called German Creek. This place was so named on account of a number of German emigrants settling there. During the Great War, however, the name of the place was changed to Empire Vale.

In the early days Mr. Pearson Simpson [Jnr] and Mr. Alexander Strutton (commonly known as old Sanly) were subpoenaed to Casino as witnesses on a court case regarding the license of towards it. On arriving there they got lost, so at nightfall they lit a fire and camped by it. After walking all the following day, a fire was noticed in the .distance, so they made towards it. On arriving there they found that it was the very place where they had camped on the previous night, and that they had been travelling round in circles. The two men lay down beside the fire for the second night, and on the third day came to the drafting yards on the Tomki Station. They then set out once more, but had only just got past the station when they met the police and four other men who had been sent out in search of them. "Where have you been?" said the police officer. "That is the question'' replied Mr. Simpson [Jnr], "we have been lost." Of course they were too late for the case, so had to return home.

At this time a man by the name of Thompson used to bring the mail on horseback from Grafton to Duck Creek and then pull in a boat from there to Ballina. He was the first mailman on the lower Richmond. One day while trying to cross a creek which was in flood he was drowned. Before this time the mail was brought up by the schooners. The next mailman to come was William Drury, and- he was followed in the year 1862 by Thomas Borton.

Mr. John Sharpe, of North Creek, was the first man on the Richmond River to have cane growing, the sets being brought to the river by a man named Scott. Mr. Pearson Simpson, of Uralba, bought some of the sets from Mr. Sharpe, and planted them on his farm. Soon afterwards, many others went in for cane growing, and in the year 1878 Mr. J. Wyness visited the river to select a suitable site for the proposed sugar mill. . He met Mr. Leeson at Wardell and asked his advice on the matter, so Mr. Leeson took him up the river and pointed out the site of what is now Broadwater. Building operations were commenced almost immediately, and in 1880 the mill commenced crushing.

 

 

Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 - 1954), Friday 30 August 1929, page 8

(Continued from Yesterday's Issue).

Mrs. T. Service was the first school teacher at Uralba. She taught the children in her own home, and was paid by the parents. The first teacher at Ballina was Mr. George Tabor Kemp, who taught in a building which was erected by Mr. Clement. (It may be mentioned here that Mr. Clement became the first Mayor of Ballina.) This building stood near where the school is at the present time. Pearson Hudson Simpson attended the school for a couple of days with the Lewis’s children, while Mr. Kemp was teaching. During this time there was a big lagoon between what is now known as River-street and where the Public School stands to-day. Later on, Mr. T. Russell became the first official teacher appointed. Mr. Smythe was also one of the early teachers.

Pearson Hudson Simpson worked hard among the cedar for many years with his father, then he went to East Wardell, and was employed by Mr. James Edward James (Jimmy Jimmy) at the sawmill. It was while working here that he was struck on the chest by a piece of timber, and it was thought that he was dead. The men poured water over him, and when he came round he returned to work. Later on he decided to buy a piece of land for himself, and walked from Pimlico to Casino (along the old bush tracks) to select the farm on which he resided for the remainder of his life. The country a few days before had been flooded, and at times he was up to his waist in mud and water. On arriving at Casino he stayed at a hotel kept by Mr. Jordan. This gentleman lent him dry clothes for the night, for in those olden days the people had much consideration for each other, and even treated strangers as brothers. After selecting, all he had left was sixpence. He walked back to Pimlico the next day, and almost immediately commenced splitting slabs to erect a little two roomed hut for himself on his farm at the top of the Uralba Cutting. It may be mentioned here that there were no roads at that time, only bush tracks. In 1882, he married Eliza Rose Beh, eldest daughter of Mr. John Frederick Beh, who lived on the adjoining farm. The young couple were married in St. Mark's Church of England, Casino, and returned to their little home at Uralba where they have resided ever since. Mr. Simpson set to work at once clearing the land and planting crops, the first crop being destroyed by drought. At other times the cockatoos and parrots were very troublesome and destroyed much grain.

 

BUSH TRACKS

During these early days when there was no road between Uralba and Pimlico, Mr. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson would walk along the old bush tracks and carry his rations on his back. This at times included a 501b bag of flour and 391bs of beef. Stephenson, McEachran and Biggs owned the only store at Pimlico at that time. Later on Mr. Simpson bought a horse and used to take his vegetables to Ballina on pack horse. He did not get much for them, however, for there were not many people about at that time to consume the produce. Next he started an orchard, and used to take his fruit and vegetables to Lismore, Broadwater and Ballina in a dray, at times leaving home at 2.30 a.m. and often arriving back again at 1 o'clock the next morning. In those days he used to carry an axe and brush hook with him wherever he went, for there were many gales which caused the roads to be blocked. Very often he would have to cut fallen trees away before he could get along, and then when he did arrive in town it was hard to sell all the fruit. The highest price that he got for bananas at this time was l 1/2 d (pence)  per dozen and very often he did not get that. It may be mentioned here that Mr. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson's father was the first man on the lower river to have bananas growing. He bought the suckers from Mr. William Wilson (better known as ' 'Cobrabald") of the Lismore Station. While her husband was away trying to sell his fruit and vegetables, Mrs. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson would go out working on the farm, besides attending to her housework and children. On one occasion she was out all day picking gooseberries and then sat up all night husking them. One and sixpence was all she got for her trouble. In those days, after the bush fires, many gooseberries were growing about. Night after night during the grape season she would be up till 1 a.m. picking the green berries off the bunches, for the people would not buy them if they saw any green berries. Besides all this she used to milk a few cows and make butter, which .she sold at the rate of 3d [pence] per pound. Mrs. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson had her share of hardships to contend with. She used to walk to Alstonville via Marshall's Falls, carrying as much as seventeen dozen eggs and ten lbs of butter to sell to Mr. John Moorehead, who owned the only store in Alstonville at that time. Alstonville was named by Mrs. John Perry, after her father, Dr. Alston, of Sydney. In those days too, they had no machine, and Mrs. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson used to make all the clothes by hand. It was quite a common thing to see her sitting sewing till as late as twelve o'clock at night. Sometimes it would be even later than that.

During these early days there were no doctors or nurses nearer than Lismore, and Mrs. Simpson would walk for miles along the old bush tracks, carrying her own children, to attend to some other poor mother in distress. She was so good and kind to everyone, and always did all she could to comfort the sick and suffering. As long as. she could do this, she did not mind how far she went. It may be mentioned that at this time the scrub still abounded in dingoes and natives.

Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson was one of the first men who helped to open up the Uralba Road, Mr. William Drury being the contractor. He also helped to keep it clear for many years afterwards without any compensation from the Government. Mr. [Pearson Hudson] Simpson also helped to open up the Meerschaum Vale and Wardell roads. One day as he was coming out from Ballina in a dray he met an old Crimean veteran on the bank of the Emigrant Creek, who intended to commit suicide, as he was starving, and had no money or relatives. On seeing him, Mr. Simpson asked, "What is the matter with you, my man” and the poor old fellow told him of his troubles. He also took off his shirt and showed him all his old wounds. This moved Mr. Simpson to pity for him, and he took out 2s from his pocket (this being half of his week's earnings after expenses were paid), and gave it to the old man. He also gave him half of his bread and meat, and told him that he would give him the lot only he had a wife and children of his own at home to keep. The old gentleman thanked him sincerely, and said he hoped that Mr. Simpson would never want for anything. Mr. Simpson also showed him an empty hut where he could go and camp.

 

EARLY SHIPPING

Some of the very early schooners to visit the Richmond were the Bertha, George, Bramble, Heroine, Lucy Ann, Anna Maria, and Volunteer. The Bramble, Heroine and Lucy Ann were wrecked at Ballina during a great gale in 1851, only one man, the cook of the Lucy Ann, being saved. He was rescued by the dismasted and badly battered Anna Maria, this being the only vessel of the four to survive the gale. About the same time a small schooner, the George, which was on its way from the Tweed to Sydney with a load of cedar, ran into a southeasterly gale and was wrecked near Cape Byron. It turned completely over. The blacks noticed the upturned vessel, and when they heard the white men knocking underneath it they thought it must contain some great spirit, so they scampered off into the scrub. On the Brunswick at this time were two cedar-getters named Steve King and Johnny Boyd. The blacks told them about it, so they made off at once to where the schooner lay, but on arriving there they did not hear a sound. Jack Boyd climbed on top of the wreck, and knocking it with a stick said to King "God help the poor souls who were on board this one." To their amazement they heard what appeared like a responsive knocking from the inside of the hulk. Boyd got down and ran back to the camp for assistance, and to get an axe. He and King then cut a hole through the bottom of the ship and pulled out the imprisoned men, who were in a semi-conscious condition. They were then carried to the camp, where they made a speedy recovery. Later on they returned to Sydney. In 1864, the schooner Volunteer, containing 114 cases of tallow, was blown on the rocks near Cape Byron by an easterly gale, and all hands were lost. Soon the news reached Ballina, and some white men set out from there to investigate, but on arriving found that the vessel had been dashed to pieces. On account of all the tallow lying about, they named the place Tallow Beach. Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson remembered this wreck quite well, and often told his family about it in later years. Other schooners to come later on were the Saucy Jack, Amphitrite, Lavinia, Ocean Bride, Rob Roy, Atlanta, Cutty Sark, School Boy, Lucy Raval, Lismore, Francis Hixon, Sarah Hixon, and many others too numerous to mention. Soon a number of steamers also began to visit the Richmond, but shipping was done in an irregular fashion between there and Sydney until Mr. B. B. Nicoll came and opened up the trade between the two places. Some of the early steamers were the Rainbow, which was driven on shore in Seal Rocks Bay in 1864 (of the sixteen hands on board only nine were saved); The Waimea, which was lost on the Richmond bar in 1872, and the Bonnie Dundee, and Platypus. Later came the St. George, Protector, and Tomki, the two latter being also wrecked near the bar. In the. year 1872, there were as many as 32 vessels lying at Ballina at the one time, bar bound.

Before the time of Mr. B. B. Nicoll, the means of communication with Sydney were very unsatisfactory, and often had the farmers on the rivers been compelled to allow their corn to lie and rot in their barns through their inability to get it to market. Mr. Nicoll began to run his vessels regularly and constantly between here and Sydney, and this assistance to the people gave them an impetus to extend their cultivation of corn. It also had much to do in developing the resources of the Northern Rivers. Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson has seen most of the schooners and steamers that have visited the Richmond. During the year 1878 he made his first visit to Sydney in the schooner the Ocean Bride, and returned in the Lucy Raval. His next voyage was made in the Platypus in 1882, the return fare at this time being £7 10s. The third and last trip was made in the St. George.

Mr. Pearson Hudson Simpson was a very keen supporter of the Agricultural Society at Alstonville, and was present at the first Alstonville show. At every show where he exhibited his produce he always won prizes. He was a man who took a great interest in the welfare of his country, and always worked very hard for his church and the- schools. One of his mottoes was "Duty first, pleasure afterwards." It may be mentioned here that, during the Great War, when his three sons volunteered for active service, the poor old gentleman was also very anxious to go. He was a noted toiler, and even ploughed and harrowed his fields till Christmas time 1928, when he became confined to his bed. Even while on his death-bed he would ask about his cultivation and orchard, and was anxious to attend to them. This grand old pioneer was very highly respected and esteemed throughout the district, both he and his family being very well known, not only in New South Wales, but Queensland as well. Since his death, which took place at his residence on the 2nd July, messages of sympathy have been received from all parts of N.S.W. and Queensland, including one from the Minister and officers of the Education Department, Brisbane. Messages of sympathy have also been received from England and Canada. !

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